On a beautiful day in Cooperstown, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mika Piazza were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Both selections were well deserved. Junior received the highest voting percentage of all time (99.32%). Next year, two outfielders will appear on the ballot for the first time - Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez. Ramirez would be a lock but for his association with PEDs. Vlad isn't a lock but he'll get strong consideration (and if selected, will be the first in the Hall wearing an Angel's cap). In the meantime, let's look at the best outfielders who haven't gotten into the Hall (who are eligible - which why there's no Pete Rose or Joe Jackson).
30. Dom Dimaggio
Dom Dimaggio was underrated even in his own day, overshadowed by both his famous brother and his teammate, Ted Williams. But outside of New York, he was regarded as the best defensive center fielder in the league and he was consistently among the league leaders in hits, runs and stolen bases. He lost three prime years to WWII but still finished his career with a .298 average and 1,680 hits.
29. Curt Flood
Best known for challenging the reserve cause, Flood was the best defensive center fielder of his day, winning 7 gold gloves. He was a career .293 hitter and helped the Cardinals win 2 World Series, in 1964 and 1967.
28. Bob Johnson
An underrated left-fielder, Johnson was an 8-time all-star for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1930s, batting .296 and driving in over 1200 runs.
27. Amos Otis
In 1969, the Mets traded a young shortstop prospect named Amos Otis to the Royals for Joe Foy. It’s one of the worst trades the Mets ever made – in a strong field. Otis went on to become an outstanding center fielder and key contributor for the excellent Kansas City Royals of the 1970s. He won 3 Gold Gloves and totaled more than 2,000 hits, 1000 runs and 1,000 RBIs.
26. Albert Belle
Many baseball fans think that it was PEDs that kept Belle from any Hall of Fame consideration but Belle has never been linked to steroids. He was, however, linked to being an asshole. It’s a shame because on the field, Belle was a model of consistency, batting .295 and averaging 37 home runs and 120 RBIs between 1991 and 2000.
25. Frank Howard
Enormous slugger starred for the Dodgers and Senators, totaling 382 home runs and over 1000 RBIs.
24. Rocky Colavito
A slugging right fielder for the Indians and Tigers, Colavito had six 100 RBI seasons and three seasons of 40 or more homers.
23. Kenny Lofton
A terrific lead-off hitter and defensive center fielder, Lofton’s excellence was overshadowed by the home runs and steroids which came to dominate baseball in the late 1990s. Lofton was a 6-time all-star and a 4-time gold glove award winner who finished his career with nearly 2500 hits, over 1500 runs scored and 622 stolen bases.
22. Sherry Magee
A five-tool star from the dead ball era, Magee was a terrific left fielder for the Phillies, leading the league in RBIs four times.
21. Bernie Williams
Perhaps the finest guitarist to ever play in the major leagues, Williams was an excellent center fielder and clutch hitter for a Yankee team that won 4 World Series. He’s baseball’s all-time leader in postseason games played, and RBIs. Only Manny Ramirez has more postseason home runs.
20. Wally Berger
A center fielder for the Boston Braves, Berger is best known for slugging 38 home runs as a rookie in 1930. He was a career .300 hitter with 242 home runs – quite a few of them tape-measure shots.
19. Roger Maris
His career numbers wouldn’t merit consideration this high but his record-breaking 61 home run season and back-to-back MVP awards seem all the more remarkable over time. Maris was also an excellent defender with one of the best throwing arms in the game.
18. Rusty Staub
Le Grand Orange holds the distinction of being the only player to get 500 hits with four separate clubs. Still a legend in Montreal and New York, he finished his career just shy of 3,000 hits.
17. Fred Lynn
Lynn found it hard to live up to his rookie season of 1975, when he won rookie of the year and MVP. He was still a 9-time All Star and terrific center fielder who put together a solid career.
16. Cesar Cedeno
A five-tool talent and early star for the Astros, Cedeno won 5 Gold Gloves and posted three seasons of 20 home runs and 50 stolen bases.
15. Bobby Bonds
The poor man’s Barry Bonds, pops was a true power-speed threat who banged over 300 home runs, had 7 seasons of more than 40 stolen bases and played a terrific right field.
14. Reggie Smith
Switch-hitting slugger starred for the Red Sox, Cardinals and Dodgers was a 7-time All Star and retired behind Mickey Mantle on the all-time home run list for switch hitters.
13. Vada Pinson
One of the most underrated players of all time, Pinson was a terrific all-around player who starred for the Reds in the 1960s and amassed over 250 home runs, 1100 RBIs and 2700 hits.
12. Jim Edmonds
He probably deserved better than the 2.5% vote he received in 2016, his first and only time on the Baseball Writer’s ballot. A center-fielder who won 8 Gold Glove Awards, Edmonds batted .284 with 393 home runs, 1199 RBIs and 1251 runs scored.
11. Tony Oliva
A three-time batting champion, Oliva was a career .304 hitter with the Twins and an 8-time All Star.
10. Dale Murphy
If not for a rapid decline at age 32, Murphy would be a lock. A converted catcher, Murphy was a two-time MVP, an early member of the 30-30 club and a graceful center fielder who hit 398 home runs and over 1200 RBIs.
9. Jim Wynn
The “toy cannon” was victimized by playing in pitcher’s park (Houston Astrodome) in pitcher’s era, but was still a terrific all-around center fielder.
8. Minnie Minosa
The “Cuban Comet” was a spark plug for the White Sox in the 1950s, batting .298 with over 1000 runs and 1000 RBIs.
7. Dave Parker
For a while, Parker was probably the best player in baseball. The National League MVP in 1978, the Cobra was one first player paid a million dollars per year and also one of the first mixed up in cocaine. But he was fearsome hitter, a 7-time all-star who had one of baseball's best throwing arms.
6. Sammy Sosa
Eventually, players linked to steroids will get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were so good when they weren’t cheating, it seems likely that their transgressions may one day be overlooked. That is unlikely to be the case with Sosa, whose case for the Hall rests on an incredible 5 year run when he batted .306 and averaged 58 homre runs and 141 RBIs. Knowing that he tested positive the very next year, who's going to believe that he wasn't juiced during that entire time period?
5. Gary Sheffield
Interesting career. A devastating hitter who bounced around the league, Sheffield was, it needs to be said, something of a defensive liability. But he’s just the 13th player in baseball history with 500 home runs, 1600 RBIs and 1600 runs scored.
4. Dwight Evans
When I was a kid, it was a great argument – whether Dave Parker or Dwight Evans (or Dave Winfield) had the best throwing arm from right field. (But don’t forget Ellis Valentine.) Of the bunch, it was Evans who had the most outfield assists. He was a rock of consistency for the Sox and hit 385 home runs and had nearly 2500 hits.
3. Larry Walker
In his 6th year of eligibility, Walker received only 15% of the vote, which does not bode well for his chances of making the Hall. He’s being punished for: 1) playing in the steroid era and 2) playing in hitter-friendly Coors field (He did bat .348 at Coors and only .278 on the road). But Walker was a true five-tool player who did everything well and won 7 Gold Gloves. His only weakness was staying healthy.
2. Tim Raines
Raines was just one of many players caught up with cocaine (which, we should remember, is not a performance enhancing drug). But his association with the drug is especially strong because of the vivid anecdote of how he slid head first to avoid breaking the vials of cocaine he kept in the back pocket of his uniform pants. What gets forgotten is how good he was. There’s the 2600 hits, the .385 career on-base percentage and the 808 stolen bases (4th best of all time). And his stolen base percentage (85%) was better than Rickey Henderson’s and much better than Lou Brock’s.
1. Barry Bonds
The best, by far.
Honorable Mention: Joe Carter, Jack Clark, Jose Cruz, Charlie Keller, Bobby Murcer, Al Oliver, Bobby Veach